After the third such expletive, I went upstairs, where my brother stood in front of the television in my parents' master bedroom, watching CNN.
At ShinraOnline.com, where I was a member since May of that year, we couldn't stop talking about it. Members were making calls to make each those of ours in NYC were all right.
And inevitably, there were discussions which made me freak out.
Because 9/11 was perpetrated by "Muslim terrorists" and I lived in a Muslim country.
When Malaysia pronounced solidarity with other Islamic countries, I was actually quite proud. It was a dangerous move to make, pronouncing that we were a Muslim country at a time when the world hated Muslims. Not only that, but Muslims all over the world, particularly in America, would face discrimination and a lot of rage, and I thought it was a nice gesture for my country to announce solidarity with them.
But I was still fearful enough that I had to ask, "I am a Malaysian, and Malaysia is a Muslim country. Do you hate me?" Of course they didn't. In the abstract world of the Internet, there, I was loved for being a writer and an active participant. They didn't care one whit where I came from.
But I had my Ping Timeout moment when a member posted a picture.
It was a picture of the Petronas Twin towers. Underneath it was a caption that read something like this:
The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpuer are the world's tallest buildings. They stand as a symbol of Islamic civilization.
As one might expect the actual picture was marred by a cleverly photoshopped plane, about to crash into them.When other members saw it, they remarked how tasteless it was, and basically, waited for me to get in there to see it.
I could have laughed it off, because after all, SO was, on a very light level then, somewhat a place for trolls, to troll and withstand trolls. Tastelessness is one of their hallmarks. We had a forum set aside specifically for people to hone their flaming skills. I'd learned by then not to take much on the Internet seriously, to walk away (and show I was walking away in a post) if I saw something I was contemptuous of.
I could not do that in that thread. I don't remember what I responded, but I remember it was hateful and shout-y. Possibly a "Fuck you, asshole." I like to think it was more poisonous than that, although in reality, it probably wasn't. I was known then as one of the "nice girls".
I remember being seized by a fear. Shock, at first, that someone could think of even photoshopping that. My country had no involvement in the tragedy, save for the few of us who actually lost loved ones there.
Not only that, but the Petronas Twin Towers certainly did not stand as a symbol of Islamic civilization to me.. It was an achievement of Malaysia's progress towards industrialization and participation in the world's sphere. It was a status symbol to make our mark on the world, even temporarily, in the World Records. Although the motifs on the thing are supposedly Muslim, they never struck me that way.
That, and it was just a petty thing to think, you know? Yes, let's totally get revenge for 3,000 dead by killing another few thousand. That makes everything better. That really pays off the blood debt. Really, nothing to do with making amends for fucking up the Middle East.
But what was truly terrifying was the knowledge that had Angry America become so rageful that they wanted to declare war on Malaysia, and send the US military to invade us, the first thing they would have toppled would have been the Twin Towers. If America had wanted to, America could have destroyed us. America still has that power. Look what it has done to Afghanistan, look what it has done to Iraq.
Hell, if a few individual Americans had wanted to destroy us, I have no doubt that they could get together and figure out a way to ram our Twin Towers. After all, who was getting profiled after 9/11?
I refused to step inside the thread again. I hashed my feelings out with someone else, a friend who probably understood more about the issue than he let on, being a Jew, and he recognized my rage was my own, and said nothing to defend the action.
The guy who posted it AIMed me in panic. He hadn't realized I was Malaysian. He was horrified that he had upset someone so much. I don't remember what I said to him, but it didn't really make me feel any better. If no one on the forum had been Malaysian, then he would have been free to post the picture anyway and not caught shit. It makes me wonder, would anyone else have called him out on bigoted behaviour? Sad to say, I think not.
Living here, sometimes I don't think Americans understand just how much events here reverberate across the world, and thus, how much responsibility America has as a role model. Those who have some inkling usually hold it as a reason to interfere, to intervene, to go places where America really shouldn't be messing in.
But we in Malaysia felt it. We are smack dab on the other side of the planet, and even we were affected enough to follow it closely.
Now, almost eight years after the event, I still feel the anxiety of America abusing its power. I rooted for Obama because I thought he would do what he needed to pull out of the Middle-East. When he sent in more troops, I ultimately felt betrayed, although I did not vote him in. Although I know, intellectually, that America is losing its grip, that it is waning, that it must or it will crumble in a spectacular fall at some point, I still fear America.
This is not an indictment of Americans. I do not fear individual Americans. When I meet an American, I do not automatically fear them. It is not the American I fear. It is the entity of U.S.A., which is bigger than an American, which will last longer any any single mortal American, which has nuclear war heads and power to deploy them.
I do not often feel this fear, because I do not often think about America much in the context of world politics. When I think about America, it is often about issues within it, and how it applies to issues I have encountered, either in Canada or my home country. I don't live with this fear, certainly.
But I won't deny that when I remember 9/11, I remember I fear America.